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Bancroft, George,

Historian; horn in Worcester, Mass., Oct. 3, 1800: son of Rev. Aaron Bancroft, a distinguished Unitarian clergyman and pioneer in “liberal Christianity.” He graduated at Harvard in 1817; studied at the German universities, and received, at Gottingen, the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy when he was only twenty years of age. He resided some time in Berlin in the society of distinguished scholars, and on his return home, in 1822, he became a tutor of Greek in Harvard University. He published a volume of poems in 1823. and in 1824 a translation of Heeren's Politics of ancient Grecce. In 1823, in conjunction with J. G. Cogswell, he established the celebrated “Round Hill School,” at Northampton, Mass. While in the German universities, Mr. Bancroft studied with avidity whatever was taught in them, but made history a specialty. His chief tutors there were Heeren. Eichhorn, and Blumenbach. At Berlin he became intimate with Wilhelm von Humboldt and other eminent scholars and philosophers. At Heidelberg he spent some time in the study of history with Schlosser; and in Paris he made the acquaintance of Alexander von Humboldt, Cousin, and others. At Rome he formed a friendship with Chevalier Bunsen: he also knew Niebuhr. While engaged in the Round Hill School, Mr. Bancroft completed the first volume of his History of the United States, which was published in 1834. Ten volumes of this great work were completed and published in 1874, or forty years from the commencement of the work. The tenth volume brings the narrative down to the [264] conclusion of the preliminary treaty of peace in 1782. In 1838 President Van Buren appointed Mr. Bancroft collector of the port of Boston. He was then engaged in delivering frequent political addresses, and took a deep interest in the philosophical movement now known as “transcendentalism.” He was a Democrat in politics, and in 1840 received the nomination for governor of Massachusetts, but was not elected. In 1845 President Polk called Mr. Bancroft to his cabinet as Secretary of the Navy, and he signalized

George Bancroft, Ll.D.

his administration by the establishment of the Naval Academy at Annapolis. While Secretary of the Navy he gave the order to take possession of California, which was done by the navy; and while acting temporarily as Secretary of War he gave the order for General Taylor to cross the Rio Grande and invade the territory of Mexico. In 1846 Mr. Bancroft was sent as United States minister plenipotentiary to England, and in 1849 the University of Oxford conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law. During this residence in Europe he perfected his collection of materials for his history, visiting the public archives and libraries at Paris. Returning to the United States in 1849, he made his residence in New York City, where he prosecuted his historical labors. He was engaged in this work until 1867, when he was appointed, by President Johnson (May 14), minister to Prussia, and accepted the office. In 1868 he was accredited to the North German Confederation, and in 1871 to the German Empire. In August, 1868, Mr. Bancroft received from the University of Bonn the honorary degree of “Doctor Juris” ; and in 1870 he celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the reception of his first degree at Gottingen. Mr. Bancroft was a contributor of numerous essays to the North American review. In 1889 he published Martin Van Buren to the end of his public career, which he had written many years before. His History of the United States has been translated into several languages. In 1882 he published a History of the formation of the Constitution in 2 volumes. This completed his great work, in accordance with his original plan. He died Jan. 17, 1891.

The death of Lincoln.--On April 25, 1865, Mr. Bancroft delivered the following oration on the death of President Lincoln, in New York City, at a great gathering in Union Square, after the remains of the murdered President had started for Chicago:

Our grief and horror at the crime which has clothed the continent in mourning find no adequate expression in words, and no relief in tears. The President of the United States of America has fallen by the hands of an assassin. Neither the office with which he was invested by the approved choice of a mighty people, nor the most simplle-hearted kindliness of nature, could save him from the fiendish passions of relentless fanaticism. The waillings of the millions attend his remains as they are borne in solemn procession over our great rivers, along the seaside, beyond the mountains, across the prairie, to their resting-place in the valley of the Mississippi. His funeral knell vibrates through the world, and the friends of freedom of every tongue and in every clime are his mourners.

Too few days have passed away since Abraham Lincoln stood in the flush of vigorous manhood to permit any attempt [265] at an analysis of his character or an exposition of his career. We find it hard to believe that his large eyes, which in their softness and beauty expressed nothing but benevolence and gentleness, are closed in death; we almost look for the pleasant smile that brought out more vividly the earnest cast of his features, which were serious even to sadness. A few years ago he was a village attorney, engaged in the support of a rising family, unknown to fame, scarcely named beyond his neighborhood; his administration made him the most conspicuous man in his country, and drew on him first the astonished gaze, and then the respect and admiration of the world.

Those who come after us will decide how much of the wonderful results of his public career is due to his own good common-sense, his shrewd sagacity, readiness of wit, quick interpretation of the public mind, his rare combination of fixedness and pliancy, his steady tendency of purpose; how much to the American people, who, as he walked with them side by side, inspired him with their own wisdom and energy; and how much to the overruling laws of the moral world, by which the selfishness of evil is made to defeat itself. But after every allowance, it will remain that members of the government which preceded his administration opened the gates to treason, and he closed them; that when he went to Washington the ground on which he trod shook under his feet, and he left the republic on a solid foundation; that traitors had seized public forts and arsenals, and he recovered them for the United States, to whom they belonged; that the capital, which he found the abode of slaves, is now the home only of the free; that the boundless public domain which was grasped at, and, in a great measure, held, for the diffusion of slavery, is now irrevocably devoted to freedom; that then men talked a jargon of a balance of power in a republic between slave States and free States, and now the foolish words are blown away forever by the breath of Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee; that a terrible cloud of political heresy rose from the abyss, threatening to hide the light of the sun, and under its darkness a rebellion was growing into indefinable proportions; now the atmosphere is purer than ever before, and the insurrection is vanishing away; the country is cast into another mould, and the gigantic system of wrong, which has been the work of more than two centuries, is dashed down, we hope, forever. And as to himself personally, he was then scoffed at by the proud as unfit for his station, and now against usage of later years, and in spite of numerous competitors, he was the unbiased and undoubted choice of the American people for a second term of service. Through all the mad business of treason he retained the sweetness of a most placable disposition; and the slaughter of myriads of the best on the battlefield, and the more terrible destruction of our men in captivity by the slow torture of exposure and starvation, had never been able to provoke him into harboring one vengeful feeling or one purpose of cruelty.

How shall the nation most completely show its sorrow at Mr. Lincoln's death? How shall it best honor his memory? There can be but one answer. He was struck down when he was highest in its service, and in strict conformity with duty was engaged in carrying out principles affecting its life, its good name, and its relations to the cause of freedom and the progress of mankind. Grief must take the character of action, and breathe itself forth in the assertion of the policy to which he fell a victim. The standard which he held in his hand must be uplifted again higher and more firmly than before, and must be carried on to triumph. Above everything else, his proclamation of the first day of January, 1863, declaring, throughout the parts of the country in rebellion, the freedom of all persons who had been held as slaves, must be affirmed and maintained.

Events, as they rolled onward, have removed every doubt of the legality and binding force of that proclamation. The country and the rebel government have each laid claim to the public service of the slave, and yet but one of the two can have a rightful claim to such service. That rightful claim belongs to the United States, because every one born on their soil, with the few exceptions of the children of travellers and transient residents, owes them a primary allegiance. Every one so born has been counted among those [266] represented in Congress; every slave has ever been represented in Congress; imperfectly and wrongly it may be — but still has been counted and represented. The slave born on our soil always owed allegiance to the general government. It may in time past have been a qualified allegiance, manifested through his master, as the allegiance of a ward through his guardian, or of an infant through its parent. But when the master became false to his allegiance, the slave stood face to face with his country; and his allegiance, which may before have been a qualified one, became direct and immediate. His chains fell off, and he rose at once in the presence of the nation, bound, like the rest of us, to its defence. Mr. Lincoln's proclamation did but take notice of the already existing right of the bondman to freedom. The treason of the master made it a public crime for the slave to continue his obedience; the treason of a State set free the collective bondmen of that State.

This doctrine is supported by the analogy of precedents. In the times of feudalism the treason of the lord of the manor deprived him of his serfs; the spurious feudalism that existed among us differs in many respects from the feudalism of the Middle Ages, but so far the precedent runs parallel with the present case; for treason the master then, for treason the master now, loses his slaves.

In the Middle Ages the sovereign appointed another lord over the serfs and the land which they cultivated; in our day the sovereign makes them masters of their own persons, lords over themselves.

It has been said that we are at war, and that emancipation is not a belligerent right. The objection disappears before analysis. In a war between independent powers the invading foreigner invites to his standard all who will give him aid, whether bond or free, and he rewards them according to his ability and his pleasure, with gifts or freedom; but when, at peace, he withdraws from the invaded country, he must take his aiders and comforters with him; or if he leaves them behind, where he has no court to enforce his decrees, he can give them no security, unless it be the stipulations of a treaty. In a civil war it is altogether different. There, when rebellion is crushed, the old government is restored, and its courts resume their jurisdiction. So it is with us; the United States have courts of their own, that must punish the guilt of treason and vindicate the freedom of persons whom the fact of rebellion has set free.

Nor may it be said that, because slavery existed in most of the States when the Union was formed, it cannot rightfully be interfered with now. A change has taken place, such as Madison foresaw, and for which he pointed out the remedy. The constitutions of States had been transformed before the plotters of treason carried them away into rebellion. When the federal Constitution was framed, general emancipation was thought to be near; and everywhere the respective legislatures had authority, in the exercise of their ordinary functions, to do away with slavery. Since that time the attempt has been made, in what are called slave States, to render the condition of slavery perpetual; and events have proved, with the clearness of demonstration, that a constitution which seeks to continue a caste of hereditary bondmen through endless generations is inconsistent with the existence of republican institutions.

So, then, the new President and the people of the United States must insist that the proclamation of freedom shall stand as a reality. And, moreover, the people must never cease to insist that the Constitution shall be so amended as utterly to prohibit slavery on any part of our soil forevermore.

Alas! that a State in our vicinity should withhold its assent to this last beneficent measure; its refusal was an encouragement to our enemies equal to the gain of a pitched battle, and delays the only hopeful method of pacification. The removal of the cause of the rebellion is not only demanded by justice; it is the policy of mercy making room for a wider clemency: it is the part of order against a chaos of controversy; its success brings with it true reconcilement, a lasting peace, a continuous growth of confidence through an assimilation of the social condition.

Here is the fitting expression of the mourning of to-day.

And let no lover of his country say that this warning is uncalled for. The cry [267] is delusive that slavery is dead. Even now it is nerving itself for a fresh struggle for continuance. The last winds from the South waft to us the sad intelligence that a man who had surrounded himself with the glory of the most brilliant and most varied achievements, who but a week ago was counted with affectionate pride among the greatest benefactors of his country and the ablest generals of all time, has initiated the exercise of more than the whole power of the executive, and under the name of peace has, perhaps unconsciously, revived slavery, and given the hope of security and political power to traitors, from the Chesapeake to the Rio Grande. Why could he not remember the dying advice of Washington, never to draw the sword but for self-defence or the rights of his country, and when drawn, never to sheathe it till its work should be accomplished? And yet, from this ill-considered act, which the people with one united voice condemn, no great evil will follow save the shadow on his own fame, and that, also, we hope, will pass away. The individual, even in the greatness of military glory, sinks into insignificance before the resistless movements of ideas in the history of man. No one can turn back or stay the march of Providence.

No sentiment of despair may mix with our sorrow. We owe it to the memory of the dead, we owe it to the cause of popular liberty throughout the world, that the sudden crime which has taken the life of the President of the United States shall not produce the least impediment in the smooth surface of public affairs. This great city, in the midst of unexampled emblems of deeply seated grief, has sustained itself with composure and magnanimity. It has nobly done its part in guarding against the derangement of business or the slightest shock to public credit. The enemies of the republic put it to the severest trial: but the voice of faction has not been heard: doubt and despondency have been unknown. In serene majesty the country rises in the beauty and strength and hope of youth, and proves to the world the quiet energy and the durability of institutions growing out of the reason and affections of the people.

Heaven has willed it that the United States shall live. The nations of the earth cannot spare them. All the wornout aristocracies of Europe saw in the spurious feudalism of slave-holding their strongest outpost, and banded themselves together with the deadly enemies of our national life. If the Old World will discuss the respective advantages of oligarchy or equality; of the union of Church and State, or the rightful freedom of religion; of land accessible to the many, or land monopolized by an everdecreasing number of the few, the United States must live to control the decision by their quiet and unobtrusive example. It has often and truly been observed that the truth and affection of the masses gather naturally round an individual; if the inquiry is made, whether the man so trusted and beloved shall elicit from the reason of the people, enduring institutions of their own, or shall sequester political power for a superintending dynasty, the United States must live to solve the problem. If a question is raised on the respective merits of Timoleon, or Julius Caaesar, or Washington, or Napoleon, the United States must be there to call to mind that there were twelve Caesars, most of them the opprobrium of the human race, and to contrast with them the line of American Presidents.

The duty of the hour is incomplete, our mourning is insincere, if, while we express unwavering trust in the great principles that underlie our government, we do not also give our support to the man to whom the people have intrusted its administration.

Andrew Johnson is now, by the Constitution, the President of the United States. and he stands before the world as the most conspicuous representative of the industrial classes. Left an orphan at four years old, poverty and toil were his steps to honor. His youth was not passed in the halls of colleges: nevertheless he has received a thorough political education in statesmanship, in the school of the people, and by long experience of public life. A village functionary; member successively of each branch of the Tennessee legislature, hearing with a thrill of joy the words, “the Union, it must be preserved” ; a representative in Congress [268] for successive years; governor of the great State of Tennessee, approved as its governor by re-election; he was at the opening of the rebellion a Senator from that State in Congress. Then at the Capitol, when Senators, unrebuked by the government, sent word by telegram to seize forts and arsenals, he alone from that Southern region told them what the government did not dare to tell them, that they were traitors, and deserved the punishment of treason. Undismayed by a perpetual purpose of public enemies to take his life, bearing up against the still greater trial of the persecution of his wife and children, in due time he went back to his State, determined to restore it to the Union, or die with the American flag for his winding sheet. And now, at the call of the United States, he has returned to Washington as a conqueror, with Tennessee as a free State for his trophy. It remains for him to consummate the vindication of the Union.

To that Union Abraham Lincoln has fallen a martyr. His death, which was meant to sever it beyond repair, binds it more closely and more firmly than ever. The blow aimed at him was aimed, not at the native of Kentucky, not at the citizen of Illinois, but at the man who, as President, in the executive branch of the government, stood as the representative of every man in the United States. The object of the crime was the life of the whole people, and it wounds the affections of the whole people. From Maine to the southwest boundary of the Pacific, it makes us one. The country may have needed an imperishable grief to touch its inmost feeling. The grave that receives the remains of Lincoln receives the costly sacrifice to the Union; the monument which will rise over his body will bear witness to the Union; his enduring memory will assist during countless ages to bind the States together, and to incite to the love of our one undivided, indivisible country. Peace to the ashes of our departed friend, the friend of his country and of his race. He was happy in his life, for he was the restorer of the republic; he was happy in his death, for his martyrdom will plead forever for the union of the States and the freedom of man.

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